Medway Council’s draft budget 2015/16

money1-154x103

More from Medway Matters

Medway’s residents are set to continue paying the lowest council tax in Kent, under proposals contained within the council’s draft budget for the new financial year.

The budget for 2015/16 seeks to protect all the vital frontline services that local people expect us to provide – despite another huge reduction this year in government funding.

This means that Medway Council will receive £15million less in its central government grant – a 28 per cent drop on the previous year and the fourth decrease in as many years.

Despite this, the council aims to maintain the vital services residents need such as children and adult social care, education, highways, libraries and waste collection.

The council will also keep weekly bin and recycling collections, one of a handful of authorities in the country to do this, and fees at our car parks will not rise – as the authority has pledged to keep these at the same level until 2017.

Medway is also determined to support its libraries and children centres, and unlike many authorities that have closed them due to cuts, still has the same number as it did before government funding started drastically decreasing in 2010 (14 libraries as well as mobile libraries and 19 children’s centres).

In fact, in the next few months a new Strood Community Hub will open, a bright new facility on the High Street that will provide a one-stop facility for council information and booking council services as well as a full library equipped with more books, more computers, free WIFI and a bigger children’s area than the old library building.

It is also hoped that due to its central location in Strood this will increase footfall in the town centre and provide a boost for local retailers.

Elsewhere in the budget proposals, an additional £4.2m will be invested in Children’s Social Care to fund more social workers and the growing cost of Looked After Children .

Road improvements, including access issues to and from the Medway City Estate, will be tackled with £28m from the Local Growth Fund and an additional £2.5m from the Department for Transport.

In order to fund and protect the more than 140 services the council provides for the 270,000 people living in Medway, the draft budget proposals are seeking a 1.994 per cent rise in council tax.

If approved when this goes before Full Council at the end of February, this would equate to £1,187.46 per year for an average Band D home – a rise of 45p a week or £23 a year on last year’s charge.

While Medway Council seeks to be as efficient as possible, council tax needs to increase slightly to ensure a balanced budget – a legal obligation it must meet despite the fact that it is becoming harder to achieve this as government funding continues to decrease.

In fact, the government’s grant for 2015/16 will be £38m compared to an equivalent £53m in 2014/15 – a £15million loss in government funding that is the principal cause of the £12million gap in its £343million overall draft budget.

Historically, Medway receives much less in government funding than other similar sized local authorities. This is a continuing feature.

Medway Council’s research shows that the £38million it receives works out at £143.40 per resident.

This contrasts sharply with places such as Brighton and Hove, which receives £165.79 per resident, Portsmouth £184.88 per person, Stoke on Trent, £235.85 per person, and Blackpool, which will get a whopping £269.77 per person.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader and Portfolio holder for Finance, said: “Year on year we are receiving less money and less support from central government. The £15m reduction this year is the biggest single driver for the £12million budget deficit we face. It is now our job to try and fill that gap, while maintaining all our vital frontline services for residents.

“It has been extremely difficult to try and balance the books at a time when we are facing such a drastic reduction in our budget.

“We are determined not to hit frontline services and therefore a modest council tax rise is, we feel, unavoidable if we are to maintain these.”

Details in the budget are subject to change, up until final decisions are made at the Full Council meeting on 26 February 2015.

The full budget proposal can be found online at http://www.medway.gov.uk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: